|Asia News Digest
Chinese Premier Calls for China-India 'Common Development and Prosperity'
Jan. 20 (EIRNS)Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao called on India and China to take "constructive measures" to ease tensions over the long-running border dispute, which has strained relations in recent months. He spoke during his meeting with visiting Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma. Pointing out that China and India "share broad common interests," Wen said, "Only if China and India achieve common development and prosperity could we have a real Asia century."
The Indian minister is in Beijing to participate in the eighth Joint Economic Group dialogue. India and China are close to firming up a bilateral trade agreement that will commit Beijing to increasing Indian participation in Chinese projects in India. It will also address the issue of easing market access for Indian companies in China. While negotiations are still under way, media sources said, considerable ground has been covered towards reaching an understanding that would be the first-ever comprehensive bilateral trade agreement between the two Asian giants.
The highlight of Sharma's visit was his meeting with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who pointed out that both China and India are large developing nations in Asia, and the total population of the two countries accounted for 40% of the world's people. He and said his country would work with India to boost neighborly relations, increase coordination in major international issues, and expand cooperation in trade, investment, and other sectors, in line with the principles of mutual respect, equality, and mutual benefit.
Gates: Al-Qaeda Tries To Provoke India-Pakistan Conflict
Jan. 20 (EIRNS)Visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, following talks with Indian Defense Minister A.K. Anthony, told the Indian media that the al-Qaeda-led "syndicate," which includes local terrorist groups, is trying "to destabilize not just Afghanistan, not just Pakistan, but potentially the whole region." Secretary Gates, who also met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said al-Qaeda had formed alliances with the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, as well as with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based group that carried out the attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 that left more than 160 dead.
Despite the "restraint" shown by India after the Mumbai attacks by Pakistan-based militants, New Delhi could easily lose patience if there were a repeat attack, Gates said. Earlier, Indian officials told Gates that the response to the Mumbai attacks was handled entirely through diplomatic channels, and Gates praised them this week for behaving with "great statesmanship." In an implicit warning to Pakistan, Gates said, "It's important to recognize the magnitude of the threat that the entire region faces.... I think it's not unreasonable to assume Indian patience would be limited were there to be further attacks."
Some in Washington believe that if new major attacks take place in India, the consensus in New Delhi is that India will respond with military restraintsuch as missile strikes against terrorist camps on the Pakistani side of Kashmir. That scenario presents American officials in the region with a huge challenge.
Thailand Moves Toward Civil Showdown
Jan. 21 (EIRNS)The office of Thai Army Chief Anupong Paochinda was bombed on the night of Jan. 14, but the bombing was not revealed until yesterday. Dissident Maj-Gen. Khattiya Sawasdipol (known as "Chief of Staff Red"), who was earlier suspended from duty for his open support of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the "Red Shirts" (Thaksin's supporters), is now being accused of responsibility for the bombing. His home was raided today, and two of his aides arrested. The clash in Thailand between the supporters of the still highly popular Thaksin and the British-controlled government now in power is fast approaching a showdown, and perhaps even a military conflict.
The decrepit monarchy and its Privy Council, led by retired generals Prem Tinsulanonda and Surayud Chulanont, have been discredited through their multiple coups against popularly elected governments, the massive corruption of the courts created under their military junta after Thaksin was deposed, and their political use of the military to enforce tyranny. In the past months, another former prime minister and commander in chief of the Thai military, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, has assumed leadership of the Phue Thai Party, representing the Red Shirts, who support Thaksin and his allies. Since that time, large numbers of leading military figures have joined the side of Thaksin and the Red Shirts, supporting rallies and demonstrations against the puppet government of Abhisit Vejjajiva (born, raised, and educated in London) and his Privy Council controllers.
Any attempt by the government to deploy the Army against the Red Shirts, as it has done in the past, could result in a split in the military and an armed confrontation.
Egypt Asks South Korea To Help Train Nuclear Engineers
Jan. 18 (EIRNS)After South Korea signed a deal to build four nuclear reactors for the United Arab Emirates late last year, Egypt has now asked Seoul to help train its nuclear engineers. According to the state-run Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the Egyptian government formally made the request to Korea's support program for developing economies. Egyptian nuclear engineering candidates will spend from 3-5 years at the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute in Daejeong. Since 2001, KOICA has trained as many as 400 nuclear engineers from Vietnam, Indonesia, and Nigeria. Seoul's $20 billion deal with UAE instantly made South Korea the sixth-largest exporter of nuclear reactors in the world.